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Taiwan-U.S. trade initiative to hold first meeting in late June: negotiator

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Taiwan-U.S. trade initiative to hold first meeting in late June: negotiator

London, June 19 (CNA) A newly-launched Taiwan-United States trade initiative will be holding its first meeting in Washington D.C. before the end of June, with Taipei's ultimate goal set at signing a trade agreement with Washington, according to Taiwan's top trade negotiator.

The first in-person meeting of the "U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st Century Trade" since its launch on June 1 will be held sometime in the final week of June, John Deng (鄧振中) told CNA during an interview in London on Friday.

According to Deng, the so-called trade agreement Taiwan aims to sign with the U.S. is not a "free trade agreement" that involves bilateral tariff negotiations.

This is because the U.S. Congress has not authorized its government to sign FTAs with any country, said Deng, who is also a minister without portfolio.

Deng would not give a timetable on when such an agreement with Washington would be signed, stressing only that Taipei has demonstrated its clear commitment to reaching the deal.

Taiwan and the U.S. jointly launched the "U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st Century Trade" shortly after Deng completed a virtual meeting with Deputy U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Sarah Bianchi.

At that time, the USTR issued a press release saying the initiative "is intended to develop concrete ways to deepen the economic and trade relationship, advance mutual trade priorities based on shared values, and promote innovation and inclusive economic growth for our workers and businesses."

Taiwan and the U.S. will work to "develop an ambitious roadmap for negotiations for reaching agreements with high-standard commitments and economically meaningful outcomes," the press release said.

According to the USTR, the two sides will focus their negotiations on 11 areas, including trade facilitation, regulatory practices, standards, state-owned enterprises, non-market policies and practices, as well as anti-corruption.

Other areas to be touched on within the initiative are the support of small and medium-sized enterprises in trade, digital trade and worker-centric trade, while the two sides will also explore ways to promote agriculture and climate action, it added.

In his interview with CNA, Deng said the upcoming first in-person meeting will focus on how exactly both sides can engage in "meaningful" discussions on the 11 topics.

Both sides will not engage in more in-depth, substantial talks until Taiwan and the U.S. have completed related preparations, including talking with private businesses, he added.

The launch of the new trade initiative was made after Taiwan was excluded from the U.S.' new Indo-Pacific economic initiative, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), launched on May 23 by U.S. President Joe Biden.

Taiwan's government had called the U.S. decision "regrettable," but said bilateral options could still be considered.

Comparing the difference between the "U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st Century Trade" and the IPEF, Deng said the former is more concrete than the latter as Taiwan knows exactly what to expect in the bilateral trade initiative.

However, the minister stressed that Taiwan is still hoping to join the IPEF in the future.

Deng was visiting the United Kingdom from June 16-18 to meet with British politicians and scholars to learn the U.K.'s experience in applying to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade pact.

The CPTPP, which grew out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the U.S. left the pact in January 2017, is one of the world's biggest trade blocs, representing a market of 500 million people and accounting for 13.5 percent of global trade.

Its 11 signatories are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

Taiwan's application to join the CPTPP was made on Sept. 22, 2021, which came less than a week after China also applied for membership in the trade group, suggesting a rush by Taipei in response to Beijing's bid.

Asked to comment, Deng said both sides of the Taiwan Strait have now officially applied to join the CPTPP. "We are hoping that each side can focus on its own application and play by the rules" before the CPTPP members decide objectively on each application based on their own evaluation, he said.

The United Kingdom was the first country to apply to join the CPTPP since the bloc was launched in 2018. The country made official its application in January 2021 and opened talks last June.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the U.K.'s international trade secretary, said last month that her country is hoping to conclude talks on joining the major Pacific trade bloc by the end of this year.

Asked what Taiwan can learn from the U.K. in its CPTPP experience, Deng said the British side told him that CPTPP members have been extremely meticulous during their review process in asking applicants to provide detailed responses and explanations.

"We have to be prepared with all kinds of possible questions raised by CPTPP member states to facilitate the accession," he said.

Taiwan has to be well-prepared for this and there is no room for slowing down, Deng stressed.


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